Tim Shriver, Daughter Kathleen Say Social Distancing Is 'Improving' Their Bond as They Unite for Special Olympics
Tim Shriver and his 26-year-old daughter Kathleen would never have expected that they would have dinner together every evening for three months and work side by side for 12 hours a day.
But because of the corona virus pandemic, they spent their time just like that. It helped them grow closer, but it also helped them develop a vision to bring the Special Olympics - founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Tim's mother and John F. Kennedy's sister - into the modern era.
"[Kathleen] saw a miserable older man who couldn't understand the changes in culture," Tim, 60, joked to PEOPLE about his daughter's contribution to his social media skills. "She would call me and say," Did you post that? Did you do this?' …. She taught me a hell of a lot about how to trust the power of connection. "
Kathleen Shriver Kathleen and Tim Shriver
Together, Kathleen and Tim, chair of Special Olympics, have worked to bridge this cultural and generational divide, including through a new initiative called UNITE, which started in May with a worldwide 24-hour live event, news from stars like Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Garner and Sean "Diddy Combs".
"The whole idea of UNITE is that everyone belongs to it," says Tim. "I am fortunate to have Kathleen who helps me understand her generation without anger and fear, but really only have my eyes open, and I hope I did the same."
UNITE was already in the works before Kathleen returned to the family home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, to distance herself socially with her father, mother Linda, sisters Caroline and Rose, and Rose's fiancee in the midst of the pandemic.
Kathleen Shriver Tim and Kathleen Shriver
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However, being together with her father in one house only helped to expand the couple's project and relationship.
"I think that's something that quarantine almost forced us on, which was a gift of it. You have to have these conversations because you've been so close to people for so long," she says. “Before it could have been like, 'Oh, I'm going, I'm going out for dinner or I'm doing something else. 'But now it really has to have these conversations, and I've really improved so many parts of our relationship. "
The family has always been the key to the Shriver and Kennedy families, as well as Kathleen, who quit her job at a technology company in December and will go to Columbia Journalism School in the fall.
Kathleen Shriver Kathleen and Tim Shriver
This close connection came into focus last April when she became head of the Special Olympics founding board, which she shared with her brother Timbo Shriver and cousins Tommy Shriver, Molly Shriver, Christina Schwarzenegger and Natasha "Tashi" Hunt Lee founded grandson of Eunice, who died in 2009.
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"It is our way and the way of the Special Olympics to involve our family in the movement," she says. "It was a really cool way to get in touch with my grandma. We strategize and go back and tell stories about grandma and what she would have said or what she would have said or what she would want here. And that was one really cool way to remember her and [her sister] Rosemary. "
Kathleen says that the relationship between Eunice and Rosemary has always been particularly important to her and that she still remembers how she saw Rosemary sitting at the table and heard Eunice translating her words as a child. Rosemary, who was mentally disabled and died in 2005, has long been an inspiration for the family's focus on service.
Kathleen Shriver Kathleen and Tim Shriver and family
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"I thought this was the most amazing thing in the whole world and inspired my relationship with my cousins, my father and the rest of my family members because I saw power in that relationship and what caused my grandma to do what to do with it whole world is changing, ”she says.
As for UNITE, Tim says it reminds of the integrative world his mother wanted to build. So far, the initiative's social channels have spread the word through daily wake-up calls that users can join to showcase their responses.
On #WakeUpCall, #AmandlaStenberg shares a beautiful rendition of At Your Best. After listening, watch her movie @TheHateUGive, which is about healing after a white cop killed a black man. We hope it gives you a place where both of you can grieve and find hope.
11:49 p.m. - June 16, 2020
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See the other tweets from UNITE
A recent example that particularly impressed Kathleen was the excitement of her Jewish friend about participating in a wake-up call from Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren, who encouraged people to share the way they refuel their soul amid the strains of the pandemic could.
"We invite people who are open to seeing the world through this lens, through the lens that does not demonize others, which is not easy," says Tim. "But as soon as you see it, we invite you to help us set it up."
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